Adult female survivors of child sexual abuse navigating parenthood: a narrative study
Sexual abuse in childhood often pervasively impacts survivors in adulthood. Research supporting the need to address the implications of sexual abuse for survivors is plentiful. Previous findings suggest that CSA can lead to consequences that intensify stressors involved in parenting and to being triggered or withdrawing from their children. However, there is limited literature providing survivors' perspectives in their own words and perspectives about their parenting practices over their children's lifespan. The purpose of the current study was to explore the process in which adult female survivors of CSA navigate parenting and to understand this process over their children's lifespan. Nine adult female survivors were interviewed for this research. Individual narratives were analyzed utilizing key concepts of relational-cultural theory. Then, a thematic group analysis was conducted. Themes from the group synthesis included: Negotiating a Balance of Protecting and Letting Go, Using Relational Images as Guideposts for Decisions in Parenting, and Exploring Relational Contexts. Within the final theme, there were three subthemes: Accessing Support and Connection, Awareness of Self in Disconnection, and Acknowledging Vulnerability and Strength. In addition, five participants shared artifacts to help elucidate their experiences and an overview of the artifacts is presented. Suggestions for future research and implications for counselors, supervisors, and counselor educators are provided.